This is Shiva as Tripurari, the Destroyer of the Three Cities. It comes from Ellora, and it part of the elaborate decorations carved on the Kailasanatha temple. It was carved in the middle of the 8th century.
Shiva appears in his symbolic form as a linga. This is often described as a "phallic"
symbol, and this dimension is clearly part of the linga's meaning--as
one can clearly see from the form of the Gudimallam Linga (2nd C. BCE), in
which the top of the shaft is very plainly shaped. Yet the linga's symbolism goes far beyond this.
One of Shiva's characteristics is that he transcends duality--all duality, any duality. As but one example, he is at the same time the perfect husband and the perfect celibate ascetic--an impossible combination for for mortal men. The linga's two essential parts are the shaft and base, which can be interpreted as symbolizing for male and female reproductive organs. Thus, in his symbolic form Shiva transcends the most basic reality that defines any human being, namely sexual identity. During worship devotees will pour water (and milk, honey, yogurt, and many other things) on top of the linga, and then catch the runoff from the spout of the base. This is considered to be prasad or sanctified food/drink, and is taken and given to devotees as a sign of Shiva's grace. Photo taken at Khajuraho, 2005. .
||This is a picture of Shiva in his form as Mahakaleshvar, the "Ruler of Death," at a temple in the city of Ujjain. Here the image (a black stone linga) has been decorated for the evening worship. Shiva is associated with snakes (perhaps reflecting associations with the Nagas or nature spirits) and here you can see one drawn on the side of the linga, and one behind it in metal.|
|This is Shiva in his wrathful form as Bhairava (note the skull cup in the hand on the right). There are purplish flower blossoms visible on the statue's limbs, evidence of worship sometime earlier in the day. To the left of the statue is a trident with a red cloth (the latter a symbol of the Goddess Parvati), and below and between the two is a small linga, whose top is also adorned with a blossom.|
||Hindu mythology describes the first appearance of the linga as a pillar of fire. According to the story, Brahma and Vishnu were arguing about which of them was greater, when they were astonished to see a pillar of fire filling the sky. Brahma mounted his swan and flew upwards, while Vishnu took the form of a boar and dug downwards, but neither was able to find the limits of this pillar. They came back to recount their failures, when a figure emerged from the heart of this fiery pillar. This was Shiva, who stood revealed as the greatest of all the gods.|
||One of the most famous images of Shiva is as Nataraja, the Lord of the Dance. According to this understanding, Shiva's dance is itself the rhythm of the universe, which moves according to the beat that he drums. This image was shot inside one of the caves at Ellora, and the statue was probably carved in the 7th or 8th century CE.|
|Since Shiva transcends all duality, one image to express
this is the ardhanarishvara ("the Lord who is half
woman") As you can see, one half has male features and
attributes, and the other half female (thus showing how Shiva transcends
one of the most basic divisions among human beings, that of
This is a contemporary greeting card that I bought at some time in India.
|Here's a modern statue (built in 2002) to the north of
Hardwar, showing Shiva in all his majesty, along with this
attributes--trident and hand drum, snakes, crescent moon, matted locks, and
rudraksha-bead necklace.. For scale, note the size of the people who
are walking around at the base (walking clockwise around something is a way
to show respect). Since Hardwar is the gateway to the Himalayas (where
Shiva lives) this is an appropriate location for this.|
With public religious art in India, the working assumption seems to be "the bigger, the better," and this was massive.
This photo was taken in January 2005.
|Ascetics such as this one are often seen as icons or
images of Shiva himself. This ascetic has the matted locks,
ash-smeared body, and simple possessions (a blanket to cover himself,
although he is wearing some jewelry) that are associated with Shiva himself.
He also seems pretty indifferent to the cool temperature, for which everyone
else is wearing sweaters.|
This photo was taken in Kedarnath in June 2002 by Sarah Helminski.
||This is Nandi, the bull who is the god Shiva's animal
"vehicle." Nandi considered to be one of Shiva's primary devotees, and
statues of him are often found outside Shiva temples, with the bull facing
the primary image (usually a linga).
This photo was taken at a private temple in the Shri Venkateshvar Hotel (Benares) in April 1990. If you look closely you will see a small flower in between Nandi's front legs; this is part of the decoration for daily worship.
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Page maintained by James G. Lochtefeld.
Last modified 12 January 2006